Man charged after 185 animals rescued from suspected cockfighting ring in East Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A man was arrested on animal cruelty charges after authorities said they rescued 185 animals from a suspected cockfighing ring in East Memphis.

Hector Martinez

Hector Martinez was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, cock fighting and cruelty to animals after officers with the Memphis Police Department Organized Crime Unit assisted Memphis Animal Services as they executed a search warrant at his Elliston Road home on Thursday.

Officers say they located fighting paraphernalia including syringes and multiple medications both inside the home and in a locked trailer in the backyard.

That’s also where authorities say they found 174 roosters and hens that had to be taken into custody by MAS. All of the animals were individually housed and had their combs and spurs shaved, an indication that they had been involved in cockfights.

MAS said they also rescued several dogs and a cat, bringing the total number of animals taken into custody to 185.

“I can tell you in my nearly five years in this role, we have never had a single location intake of this size,” said MAS Director Alexis Pugh.

Due to the ongoing investigation, MAS said they could not comment on the case or speculate on what would happen to the animals. A veterinarian and the courts will make those decisions.

“The mainve thing we need the public to know about how this impacts us is that this large, unusual intake has created a crisis of space and resources at the shelter. The chickens are currently being housed in both cat and dog areas that have been emptied for them,” MAS said in a released statement. “The best way people can help us offset the demands of this intake is to foster and adopt large adult dogs.”

Dog and cat adoptions are currently $20 for anyone who makes an appointment by March 7.

Advocacy group Animal Wellness Action said they hope the arrest sends a strong message that cruelty won’t be tolerated in our area.

“Cockfighting activities breed diseases such as Avian Influenza and New Castle Disease that have cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars and could be the next COVID-19 type pandemic if they jump the species barrier,” the said. “The Tennessee Congressional Delegation should join Rep. Steve Cohen in his effort to pass the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act that would crack down on this blood-sport.”

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